Kim Reaper: Vampire Island #1
Sarah Graley (writer, artist, colorist), Crank! (letterer)
September 5, 2018
Kim Reaper: Vampire Island follows up last year’s original volume with more of Sarah Graley’s distinctive cuteness and drama. (I interviewed Graley about the first volume here.) After getting herself in trouble with her grim reaper bosses in the first volume, Kim has been working long hours and tough assignments. Her girlfriend Becka has been spending more time with her roommate, and she’s apparently become a big fan of vampire shows. Kim, of course, handles this very maturely, by whisking the three of them off to visit an island where real vampires live. Like the time Kim took Becka to a haunted shipwreck in the first volume, this quickly turns into some Scooby-Doo-level mayhem.
The new series hits the ground running and doesn’t recap much of what transpired in the first volume. If the reader has seen at least a blurb about the book and knows that Kim is a part-time grim reaper and Becka is her girlfriend, this approach shouldn’t leave them too out of the loop. The plot is simple enough and the characterization deep enough that it should read pretty smoothly for newcomers to the series. I do highly recommend checking out the first volume, though. It’s a quick, fun, touching read.
Just in the first issue, we get some very good character development. Kim and Tyler (Becka’s roommate) don’t get along, and it seems like they’re probably each jealous of the attention the other gets from Becka. We find out that Becka previously dated a non-binary person. When Kim’s boss reaches a new level of petty jerkdom, she brings up the fact that he assigned her to harvest the souls of some puppies who died, which, as she rightly points out, is the saddest job. The issue ends on a cliffhanger when one vampire helps Becka and Tyler run from the other vampires.
Graley’s work continues to be a great example of the way comics work on a basic level. She uses simple visuals to convey action and acting alongside brisk dialogue, and it meshes together to engage the reader and draw them along through the story. Modern comics often use elaborate visuals, beautiful color, poetic language, and/or dramatic silence to create a “wow” factor. All those elements are great, but when the creators focus on them, they sometimes neglect the fundamentals. Many voices in the comics community express disdain for “children’s comics,” but Graley and others who work in that sort of idiom are doing a lot more heavy lifting than they’re often given credit for.
Kim Reaper has so much of what I love to see in comics, especially comics aimed toward younger audiences. It has fantastical elements, action, and humor, and it all revolves around a core of telling a story about how real people really relate to one another and navigate life. Batman is great, but reading for the thousandth time about him brooding and punching people isn’t really teaching young people life lessons, or at least not positive ones. And, of course, I love the positive representation of queer people and queer relationships.